Rapper Turned Comic Chingo Bling Brings A More Mature Act to Houston Improv

Chingo Bling has always kept his foot in two worlds: comedy and music.
Chingo Bling has always kept his foot in two worlds: comedy and music. Photo by Maria Alducin

The Houston rapper known as Chingo Bling has always done it his way – whether it was being the funniest guy in the music scene, or the comedy person who knew about the best new artists — the 41-year-old entertainer has always kept his foot in both camps.

“I spent many years in the music scene, because I decided to not get a regular job with my college degree,” Bling explains, ahead of his weekend of shows at Houston Improv. “Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough, but my marketing degree really wasn’t breaking glass ceilings. But anyway, when I decided to move back from San Antonio after doing college, and saying that I really want to attempt show business. I’m gonna go do this comedy thing, this Chingo Bling comedy thing, and I really didn’t know what that was.

"I did meet up with OG Houston comedian Juan Villareal, who paved the way. I remember seeing him on Comic View. So my plan was, go meet up with Juan, see if he can be a mentor, show me the ropes and I could be a protégé. At least give me some tips, and I went to one of his shows… he gave me some good pointers.”

All the while, Chingo Bling was finding an audience for his sonically pleasing parodies videos, including a parody video of Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” about a yard tender turned stalker that has wracked up over 2 million views on YouTube. “My music stuff I was doing at the same time: my parodies, my mix tapes, all that grassroots underground [were taking off[. That scene was robust, you had people like OG Ron C, Slim Thug and Switshahouse … all these camps, literally trailblazing a circuit.

"It created a whole economy. If you lived in a small town in east Texas for example, you could invest with a couple of friends and open up a store front, then you could hit up Chingo Bling’s family or Slim Thug’s family and any connect, then you get some mixtapes, some CDs, some products and merch – then you could pay your rent. The local community can come and participate in this Texas culture we were creating.

"It’s a shame that a lot of these mom and pops aren’t around anymore. It really was a golden era. So I was doing it comedic-ly, you see what I’m saying?  I was just trying to carve out my own lane, my own sound, my own genre, my own look. I was just trying to be… I don’t want to say ‘original’ because nothing is really original. But I just wanted to see if I could get some shelf space in those stores.”

While much of his touring dates have been postponed and pushed back due to the continuing COVID-19 situation, the comic is effusive with praise for the Texas chain of Improv Comedy Clubs. “The ones we were able to do, they were great crowds in Corpus Christi and El Paso and Arlington, especially the Texas Improvs – their management is so great that I felt like they pioneered some of the stuff that these [re-opened] restaurants are doing. Like scanning the menu with your phone? A lot of restaurants are doing that. But just going above and beyond, like in Arlington club, they have plexiglass shields and dividers, you know? So it will be a table top two, for you and your date… maybe a four top for you and your family members that you’ve already been with. So you can still have the ambience, you can still be comfortable, let loose. It’s almost like you got your own little cubicle, but it’s clear so you don’t miss anything.”

When asked if he feels comfortable performing live again, Bling’s answers is a certain "yeah." “They definitely space it, and its at limited capacity,” he adds, before joking. “There’s not even a front row to where I could spit on anyone! Ha! Damn, these are those experiential things we may never regain again.”

For the long-time joker, Bling gets serious when discussing the impact of the pandemic on how he’s reevaluated his gig. “I think it really helps define what our role. It used to be kinda like make everyone have this release. And get this dopamine hit. You really affect people’s brain chemicals. But now, its like, yes you have to do that- but with different variables and circumstances. It’s like the stakes are higher! So you really need to do your job well. Really get the job done. Like don’t have us leave our house, get a sitter, come up here, social distance and mask, and you not deliver.”

While many might know Chingo Bling’s comedy as best exemplified in his Netflix special for 2017, entitled They Can’t Deport Us All – the comic is quick to clarify where’s he at now in his career. “Nowadays, how I would approach it is to make sure the material is in a real good point performance-wise, and you have this situation where you are able to execute for an audience that this is a well put together body of work,” Bling says.

“When we did the Netflix thing I was a little green, I was a rookie, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  It's cool that we documented it, it did great, it was trending. Nowadays I think Netflix releases charts and rankings, but at the time they didn’t. I’d argue it was pretty high up there for a minute. Only because the feedback was great and it was always trending, and I don’t know how that little algorithm works but like tons of people were like, ‘Yo bro, your special is popping up on my thing’ – they watching it, they bootlegging it!

"I will say that my comedy and me as a person has evolved, I’m realty excited about my new material and all these new jokes and stories and life experience that are part of this new act. I talk about the process of being an older dude from the hip hop era, who is like a family man and is married – it’s not about the rap videos or the popping Champagne. A lot of the material is relatable – so I try to make it like human, and there’s nothing too Spanish, too cultural – its like relationship stuff, dating stuff, and like, my relationship with my dad. So everybody kinda has an idea what it's like.”

Though he’s certainly dedicated himself to the comedy realm, Chingo Bling hasn’t left his musical side in the dust. He teases that there's some new music on the horizon, but explains why being funny has taken precedence in his career lately.

“For me, it was definitely a step up to do comedy. Reason being is I never really tapped into those big chains of venues like House of Blues, like I never got to the point where I was being offered these big Latin communities like San Jose, San Antonio, Chicago, Miami. I never really went that route. I kinda stay in the region, though I traveled a lot. On the comedy side, I made a pretty big splash to where we were selling out these Improvs. To the point where the chain itself was asking: Who the hell are you? How did you sell so many tickets? Where’d you come from?  Then all these agents are telling me we can get you this national wide coast-to-coast tour. My wife actually handles it, so we have these nation wide tours.

“So, to compare the music side and the up-and-coming comedian [side], it definitely about how you are about to engage and use the tools that are out there, like social media for example. YouTube. Can you write, can you create, can you produce content? Can you get an audience? Can you get a fan base, and do people care? Will they support you? Do you know how to persuade folks on how to pay attention, because everything is saturated. Everyone is a content creator! So I feel like they're a lot of parallels. I love the comedy world, but I love them both. I like to diversify, I don’t want to be a one-trick pony.”

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Friday, September 11, 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 12, and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 13 at Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit $50-100.

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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee